The Valley of Dawn & The Northern Sierra
Suggested 1- to 7- Day Itinerary
Get to know the heart and soul of this fascinating region with this suggested itinerary: walk the hills and valleys, discover lakes and mountains, explore markets and the restored railway, enjoy fine lunches in different settings… and then end each day with Hacienda Cusin’s log fires, comfy armchairs, art collections, house-games and sports.
Day 1 – The Fine Art of Hacienda Living
Explore the art and antiques of Salón Bolívar, the bar, dining room and upstairs corridor, taking a closer look at the Quito and Cusco School paintings. Wander around several acres of gardens, library and Reading Room, squash court, games room and Casa Cusin craft store. Explore El Monasterio de Cusin with its towers (find the secret door!), the views from the parapet, Salón Cotacachi, and dining room murals – don’t miss the Baroque altar and Andean cross. Get to know the residents of the stables: eight friendly horses, guinea-pigs, peacocks, llamas, odd-looking hens, turkeys, rabbits, geese, and more. Try one of many walks.
At 5 p.m., tea on the main garden patio in the sunset’s often unusual glow, or a fireside cocktail. After a candlelit dinner, warmed by the log fire, watch the night sky or a film with popcorn. Bienvenidos!
Request a self-guided tour at Reception.
Chess, checkers, Scrabble, Monopoly, darts, ping-pong, pool, squash, volley-ball are complimentary.
In-room massages and Spanish language classes (students receive a 20% room discount) are available.
Day 2 – An Otavalo Odyssey
Shop for good-quality, hand-made leather, wood and woven crafts at Otavalo’s domestic and tourist markets Monday-Friday. The largest and busiest market is on Saturday, 8 a.m- 4 p.m. and animal market, 7-8 a.m.
Watch the flight of the majestic birds of the Condor and raptor reserve, on the way to or back from the Otavalo markets, 15 minutes from Cusin. Antique stores: Casa Cusin, Otavalo and San Antonio de Ibarra. Check opening days with Reception.
Note: Wear sun-protection and drink plenty of water!
Markets: Robbery is uncommon, HOWEVER, do not wear jewels or watches, or leave your wallet in your back pocket. Leave your passport (take a copy) and airline tickets at Reception. Wear backpacks on your front.
Lunch: Las Palmeras Inn, Casa Mojanda, Posada del Quinde are recommended.
Day 3 – Valleys and Volcanoes
Explore the lush Gualavi valley by horse and guide, mountain bike or foot. Maps are available at Reception.
Picnic or Lunch at Sacha Ji ecolodge.
Return by marked tracks or short cuts.
OR, continue towards Imbabura mountain and then return to Cusin via San Pablo. Request
a relaxing, in-room massage.
OR climb the 15,000-foot Imbabura volcano, 8 hours, with guide. Picnic.
Notes: Wear sun-protection and sweaters for the summit.
Day 4 – Lakes &Leather
Request a taxi and picnic to Cuicocha, a stunning, turquoise crater lake with prolific flora and panoramic views. A sometimes difficult, 5-hour walk, a guide is important (though you can just go and admire the scenery!) – and it can get cold. Take a boat trip to the lake island resembling a Guinea pig (cui). Return via the leather stores of Cotacachi.
Lunch: La Mirage ($$$) or 18th-century Hacienda Pinsaqui ($$).
Day 5 – Mountains Spirits and Ancient Pyramids
Past Cusin, beyond the rose plantation, is the mountain range of Mojanda and, to the right, is the ancient volcanic plug, Fuyafuya. Armed with warm clothes and a picnic, leave at 9 a.m. for the lakes of Mojanda (taxi, 30 minutes). Once you’re there it’s a stiff, uphill climb to Fuyafuya – the spectacular views make it worth the effort.
Lunch: Casa Mojanda, Las Palmeras Inn, Hacienda Pinsaqui.
OR 6:15a.m., depart for Ibarra for an adventurous Andean train journey along an historic railway line, passing through intriguing ecosystems and scenery and encountering diverse cultures. Request a picnic.
OR drive two hours north to the spectacular Páramo El Ángel.
OR visit the extraordinary, partially excavated 9 th -century earth pyramids of Cochasqui, (40 mins one-way). Museum, medicinal gardens and guinea pig house. Spectacular views on a clear day. Spanish-speaking guide. And don’t forget an in-room massage on your return!
Lunch: Hacienda La Compañía ($$) and rose plantation tour, or Hacienda El Molino de San Juan ($$), Cayambe – both open on Sundays.
Day 6 – Imbabura Walks and Volcano Views
A spectacular walk to Zuleta valley (5.5 hrs). Picnic with a view of snowcapped Cayambe.
Note: Hacienda Zuleta does not welcome non-guests on its property.
Arrange return transportation with Reception at Cusin. Caranqui, near Ibarra, has an Inca bathing house (ruins) and on Sundays, pan de leche.
OR go on horseback, halfway and return (3hrs) for a Cusin lunch.
OR walk to Cubilche. Picnic. Return to Cusin (6 hrs.).
OR, on a clear day, consider a loop: south to the town of Cayambe, visiting the rose plantation at La Compañía, then taste the bizcocho biscuits in town. Just north of Cayambe, take the country road towards Ayora, winding through the hills (hopefully with a great view of the Volcano). Eventually come down to the Zuleta valley, with lots of embroidery shops.
Then return to San Pablo town and lake on another country road.
Day 7 – Dramatic Landscapes and Weaving Workshops
Walk to Mt Lechero (90 mins), climbing to the top of the hill for a magnificent view of the lake and the dramatic landscape. Take a taxi to Agato (Tihuantinsuyo store) for Manuel Andrango’s world-famous weaving workshop.
Lunch: Cabañas del Lago ($).
Maps are available in Reception upon request.
English-speaking guides are available for walks and tours. | Taxis: from $7 p.hr.
Local buses, from a stop near Cusin, or from San Pablo’s main plaza, are frequent and inexpensive.